Creative commons is a remarkable initiative, fundamentally addressing the need to share, use and reuse knowledge and ideas for the benefit of all. It has had significant benefits to the creative community and to those studying at all levels in the education system. At Mada we have embraced creative commons at two levels – firstly as the platform upon which collaborations with other countries can be based and second as the route by which knowledge and ideas can be more easily shared with the community of people with a disability.
Mada is committed to working in partnership at all levels within Qatar, within the Middle East and across the globe. Disability is a global issue, and many organizations around the world have produced information that would be very useful to people in Qatar. At Mada we are steadily adding to that knowledge base but want to focus our minds on adding to that portfolio not replicating it.
Creative commons has been the tool to allow us to do this. It has allowed us to find a basis for co-operative work such as a project recently completed with Enable Ireland. With this partner we developed an employers guide to accessible technologies, in doing so we found that around 80% of the material that employers in Qatar and Ireland needed was the same with only some 20% being specific to each country. As a result we drafted two versions, one for each and published both under creative commons.
In our introduction we made it clear that anyone was allowed to reuse the material contained within the guides with attribution, and we specifically pointed to the 20% of country specific material that would need to be redrafted to meet the needs of a local community. Naturally we also gave permission for translation. We are delighted to find interest in the guide form other Arabic and English speaking countries who have a much easier job to do in creating a version of the guide for employers locally to them.
Publishing under creative commons, creates a statement about our values and willingness to contribute. This can have unexpected side effects. Mada recently wanted to reuse some copyrighted materials produced by an American organization, they freely gave us permission to do so and to create a “mashup” of our material combined with theirs to meet the needs of users here in Qatar. Our shared commitment to freely distributing resources was the basis of this approval. Furthermore they also commented that our use of the materials was quite different from their own, and that this spurred them on to new thinking about their own approach for the future. At Mada we feel that this iterative process of development is hugely beneficial in a fast moving field for all involved.
Creative commons also has real benefits for people with a disability. It’s widely known that the amount of fully accessible material available to people with a disability is very limited, and that for Arabic speakers even more so than for English speakers. One of the challenges faced with traditional publishing models is that permission has to be sought from the copyright owner to create a copy of the original work in another format such as audio, daisy talking book or Braille. Only such copies will be useful to someone who is blind, has dyslexia or cannot turn pages. This problem led to widespread criticism of Amazon in the US when publishers refused to allow text to speech to be enabled on their works for fear of damaging the audio book market.
Creative commons overcomes this when it allows us to freely distribute or make copies of books. We are able to take the content and convert it into a those other formats through the use of widely available tools and Mada is calling upon authors of books in Arabic to publish under creative commons, or grant rights for conversion to alternative formats to support the growth of intellectual property as a shared and accessible resource in Qatar.
Creative commons is an important tool for us at Mada. It supports collaboration, creativity and accessible resources. If you want to share creative works with people with a disability please contact us at Mada to look at how we can help make them fully accessible.